Acts 2.1-13 DN Convo Guide (May 8th, 2013)

May 3, 2013 - One Response

Main Thought:

The Spirit of God is willing and able to harness the elements and augment the capabilities of humanity in an effort to allow us to participate in His redemptive work.    

Q’s

 Please consider these questions [1] with your DN partner:

  1. In the past, has it been hard for you to think of the Holy Spirit as a person rather than simply as a presence or force? Do you think that you have a consciousness of relating to the Holy Spirit as a person who is distinct from God the Father or God the Son? What might help you be more aware of this distinction among the members of the Trinity as they relate to you?  
  2. Do you perceive any difference in the way the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit relate to you in your Christian life? If so, can you explain what that difference is or how you are aware of it?
  3. Have you ever been especially aware of the Holy Spirit’s empowering in a specific situation of ministry? How did you perceive the presence of the Holy Spirit at that time, or what made you aware of His presence?
  4. In your own experience, in what ways does the guidance of the Holy Spirit come to you? Is it primarily (or exclusively) through the words of Scripture? If so, are there times when certain Scripture passages seem to come alive or speak with great relevance and forcefulness to you at the moment? How do you know when this is happening? If the Holy Spirit’s guidance has come to you in other ways in addition to speaking through the words of Scripture, what have those other ways been?
  5. Do you have a sense from time to time of the pleasure or displeasure of the Holy Spirit at some course of action that you are taking? Is there anything in your life right now that is grieving the Holy Spirit? What do you plan to do about it?
  6. Did the Holy Spirit immediately leave Samson when he began to sin (see Judges 13.25, 14.6, 19; 15.15)? Why or why not? Is the presence of spiritual power in someone’s ministry a guarantee that the Holy Spirit is pleased with all of that person’s life?


[1] Grudem, Wayne. 1994. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. 

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Acts 2.1-13 DN Convo Guide

May 3, 2013 - Leave a Response

Main Thought:

The Spirit of God is willing and able to harness the elements and augment the capabilities of humanity in an effort to allow us to participate in His redemptive work.   

Q’s

Please consider these questions[1] with your DN partner:

  1. In the past, has it been hard for you to think of the Holy Spirit as a person rather than simply as a presence or force? Do you think that you have a consciousness of relating to the Holy Spirit as a person who is distinct from God the Father or God the Son? What might help you be more aware of this distinction among the members of the Trinity as they relate to you?  
  2. Do you perceive any difference in the way the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit relate to you in your Christian life? If so, can you explain what that difference is or how you are aware of it?
  3. Have you ever been especially aware of the Holy Spirit’s empowering in a specific situation of ministry? How did you perceive the presence of the Holy Spirit at that time, or what made you aware of His presence?
  4. In your own experience, in what ways does the guidance of the Holy Spirit come to you? Is it primarily (or exclusively) through the words of Scripture? If so, are there times when certain Scripture passages seem to come alive or speak with great relevance and forcefulness to you at the moment? How do you know when this is happening? If the Holy Spirit’s guidance has come to you in other ways in addition to speaking through the words of Scripture, what have those other ways been?
  5. Do you have a sense from time to time of the pleasure or displeasure of the Holy Spirit at some course of action that you are taking? Is there anything in your life right now that is grieving the Holy Spirit? What do you plan to do about it?
  6. Did the Holy Spirit immediately leave Samson when he began to sin (see Judges 13.25, 14.6, 19; 15.15)? Why or why not? Is the presence of spiritual power in someone’s ministry a guarantee that the Holy Spirit is pleased with all of that person’s life?


[1] Grudem, Wayne. 1994. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. 

The Smith Boys

November 15, 2008 - 3 Responses

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March 12, 2008 - 5 Responses

It was morning

Not early

Not late

That is when I saw it  

My eyes were distracted from the narrow stretch of country road

To find a perfect white circle hovering over the distant trees

A gentle haze quieted its intensity

So that I could gaze into its supposed fury

It seemed this entity had woken up late

Too late to fulfill its mighty purpose to the world

I halted my commute

To confirm what my tired eyes were seeing

It was too large to be the keeper of night

But it was too pale to be the keeper of day

A perfect circle of white

Soon I was again distracted

This time by a noise

A brook

This brook did not babble though

It only whispered

But it certainly made its presence known

After a moment or two

I ignored the water’s faint cry

And the cliché arrangement of trees on the hill

To find that the circle was speaking to me

He told me I was blessed

To see him void of power and strength

He told me this would be my life’s only moment to witness him lacking his cloak

Of radiance

Take it in, he said

With no jurisdiction over the infinite expanse

He stood in solitude

Praying

That few would see him without his influence

Vulnerable

Naked

He told me not to tell anyone about what I had seen

I politely listened

Then continued on my way

My Brother’s World: Perceptions of Race

February 22, 2008 - 10 Responses

     The warm rays of sunlight penetrated my epidermis as I sat watching a young boy of color prance in and out of a spewing fountain. The water must have been refreshing for him, but it could not have been as refreshing as seeing the smile on his face. His bare feet, rolled jeans, and shirtless body were bombarded with shots of water springing from the ground; laughter saturated the air. I sat mere feet from a sign that forbade playing in the fountains, but there was no way in God’s colorful earth that I was going to end this excitement.

     Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a middle aged couple quietly enjoying the same sunlight. With skin as fair as the falling cherry blossoms, the couple seemed to be entertained by the sight of a careless, euphoric child. After further investigation, I noticed that they did look as refreshed as I did. In fact, the sight of stern brows and pointed eyes obliterated my perception of their noon-day bliss. Although they did not notice my observations, it was quite obvious that the boy of color was the recipient of these glares.  Bitterness and resentment seemed to radiate from their body as they relentlessly peered at the boy, and I failed in my attempt to dismiss this misunderstanding because the looks continued for several minutes. The sun and serene park gave no reason to justify these faces of disgust. Are they upset that we were breaking the rules? There must be another explanation; after all, the aggravated beast of prejudice has been dead for years.

     As my heart began to beat faster and stronger, my wife gently touched my arm to dispel the emotions she saw growing. She led us to the other side of the park because of her fear for the verbal manifestation of my emotions (in retrospect, I would have ignored the loving protection of my wife, and confronted the beast that I thought had long been dead).

     As we walked away, the dissapointed child told me that he did not understand our departure. With as much truth as I could muster, I squeezed his hand tighter and said, “I don’t either, brother…I don’t either.”          

     Perceptions of race have evolved little since the formal dismissal of segregation. Though we quietly co-exist, Dr. King’s assimilation never fully came to fruition. Churches, fraternities, and sororities loudly proclaim the fact that we will retreat to segregation when we feel we can get away with it. Prejudice and discrimination still confidently hold their places in America’s storybook, yet we fail to see them because of cohabitation. At the core of these issues, the perceptions of man lie. My wet, baby brother fell victim to perception of color by individuals who probably are not aware that color still sparks certain emotions within them. My friend who complemented the African-American basketball star during a post-game interview for being “articulate” is also unaware. We can mandate the mutual use of bathrooms and water fountains, but how do we alter the hearts of men? After all, it is that heart that determines where man goes and what man believes.

     In my humble opinion, a world where individuals are color-blind is as mythical as religious unity, but this reality should not dampen the efforts to educate the ignorant and reason with flawed perceptions. Honestly, I am scared for my biraical brother. He has neither white men nor black men to fully embrace him in a world where color most certainly matter. The looks I receive in public as he proudly rides on my shoulders foreshadow issues that he will be forced to endure. His ignorance will fade quickly. Through all of this, I still see hope.

     It is much like the boy who stood among the hundreds of thousands of starfish that had washed up to shore. As he picked them up one at a time and hurled them back in the ocean, an older gentlemen asked why he could concern himself with a battle that will never be won. “You can never save them all,” he said. The boy picked up another starfish, held it to the light, and replied, “No…but I can save this one.”

     The tyranny of racial perception is a beast that cannot be slain; however, a single heart is vulnerable to truth. Truth…is that we were all created in God’s image. Boasting of this craftsmanship, how anyone could be perceived as anything other than a beautiful replica of a timeless treasure… is utterly beyond me. Ultimately, I forgive the couple in the park on behalf of my ignorant brother, because it is what his Creator desires. However, we have more work to do.  

Coming Soon: 

GOD IS NOT COLOR-BLIND  

Undestroyed Walls III

December 13, 2007 - 8 Responses

       Reverend Gaines admitted that Lexington possesses ministers, both black and white, that he cannot “walk with” because of their lack of conviction regarding these issues. He said, “We are weak in the social aspect of the gospel…the key is to carry out the social gospel while remaining theologically anchored.” Many have failed in their attempt to achieve this balance; many are blind to its significance. Finding this balance is essential for an effective, relevant, God-honoring ministry. A congregational reflection of the Kingdom of God is only an aspect of carrying out the gospel, but an aspect that most churches have failed to realize. For the sake of the gospel, criticism and diagnosis cannot be our stopping point. We must push forward and formulate a remedy. With this in mind, I asked Reverend Gaines this question:

Is strategic integration necessary?

       “Necessary” proved to be too strong of a word for Reverend Gaines. He preferred “helpful” and believed that legislating diversity should not be the exclusive approach. “Pure hearts will do the right thing,” he said. He felt that a natural integration would occur out of love for the Savior if the hearts of men were pure. Though I do whole-heartedly agree with this notion, I also feel that the hearts of men need prompting – and teaching this truth may not be as effective as demonstration. If a congregation sees spoken convictions come to physical fruition in the form of diverse leadership, then prompting the hearts of men is an easier mountain to scale. One must realize that the monumental battle we fight is not with societal structure; rather, it is with the inner-most assumptions and beliefs of the individuals that make up our society. It is a battle of wills. Though we have moved beyond the devastation of a racism-laden America, we are still the distant offspring of racist thought. Sadly, there are microscopic pieces of the former-America deeply seeded in our spirits. Do not be mistaken, it is not disgustingly obvious like it once was. You must look deep to find the fragmented traces of racial intolerance, but the search for comfortable segregation is far less difficult, especiallly on Sunday mornings. The condition of the heart is the root of all problems because of man’s innate depravity. But…truth can triumph over depravity. Truth must triumph over depravity.

       The brief time I was blessed to experience with Reverend Richard Gaines of Consolidated Baptist Church proved to be a milestone in my young life. My soul’s yearnings were finally heard and justified by a voice much louder and wiser than mine. I pray that our paths will one day cross again in pursuit of the same goal. Alongside Reverend Gaines, I refuse to believe that we were made to celebrate Christ divided. Only our God can repair this historic mistrust, but we must be willing to see God accomplish it through us. I am moved by the name of Reverend Gaines’ assembly – Consolidated. To consolidate… is to bring together separate parts into a single or unified whole – to combine, to unite. Our calling as God’s people is no less.

Undestroyed Walls II

December 10, 2007 - 17 Responses

       One must not dismiss the irrefutable presence of divergent cultures as they formulate their convictions regarding segregation in the church. Our cultures, black and white, are alive and well. Although “well” may  be a stretch at times, the cultures that permeate our existences play a major role in nearly every facet of the human experience; thus, they should not be ignored. Despite acknowledging the merit of cultural discussions, the problem surfaces when individuals use the truth of varying cultures to defend a position of separatism in the church. I, alongside Reverend Gaines, argue that this position is supported so that “cultural-comfortability” can be preserved. This disposition is similar to the Samaritan woman in Scripture who could not understand why Jesus would desire all people to travel to Jerusalem to worship. She knew the vast cultural distinctions between Jews and Gentiles and assumed that segregation of worship was the appropriate methodology. Jesus destroyed her preconceived notions by informing her that sociology was not relevant to when and where worship should take place (John 4). Reverend Gaines reinforced this truth by proclaiming that we need to “go all the way to Jerusalem” to worship together. If cultural differences are rubbish in the eyes of the man we so passionately follow, why have we let it define the gathering of believers across America? Pastor Gaines also agreed that comfort fuels our desire to be separate. Few will admit it, but there exists a subconscious belief that spirituality was meant to be manufactured and experienced with your own people. Because of cultural differences, integration is believed to be pollution…a detriment to purity. How can one fully express their spirituality if they are in the presence of those who do not understand that particular form of expression? This attitude lies at the heart of those who endorse separatism and is a tragedy in the eyes of the Creator of melanin. My question to that faction is this: What cause could be worthy of my time and energy that does not have the power to unite those of different cultures?                                     

       Spirituality is enhanced when individuals step out of the “cultural box” (by rejecting the subtle traces of ethnocentricity that we unknowingly carry) to watch and experience Christianity through a different cultural lens. Though it should be noted that compromising the historic force of culture for the sake of integration is not satisfactory, one could only imagine the spiritual possibilities of a body of believers experiencing God on their own cultural terms, yet together while doing so. If spiritual isolation and stagnation is the goal, then dying on the hill of separatism is a worthy pursuit. But my heart tells me that there is a divine reason that all nations will glorify our Father in heaven together for eternity. Reverend Gaines humbly concurred.

       It should be noted that culture does not carry the same weight that it onced did. We are all victims of “Americanization”, and culture today is primarily defined by financial status. Wealthy white families in Lexington have few differences between wealthy black families. So, if our church congregations were determined by culture as we know it in 2007’s America, individuals would find themselves worshiping alongside people with similar socioeconomic status more often than race.

       Demographic arguments also arise in this debate. Some would say that congregations are mere reflections of the surrounding demographics, basically arguing for proximity. This position holds little water because of the salience of transportation. In a day where personal vehicles were rare, one could argue that demographics heavily influenced the content of a church – you went to the closet assembly. Transportation has made options a reality. Subsequently, readily available transportation has promoted preference. Now in the 21st century, the most overwhelming factor that determines the coordinates of an individual’s church is personal preference. It is so second nature to the existing generations that most do not find this sad truth to be problematic in the Kingdom of God. We now have the opportunity to custom-make our church experience with any bells and whistles that we desire. You can search for any make, model, or color that you please, justifying your decision by claiming you will be able to “worship” more fervently at that particular assembly. But do not let “preference” fool you. This wreckless, decision-making process becomes arbitrary only after one automatically – without a trace of deliberation – weeds out the congregations that do not reflect their personal make, model, and color. This is self-inflicted, religious apartheid. I, alongside Reverend Richard Gaines, feel that this reality is a division in the Kingdom of God.        

Undestroyed Walls I

December 4, 2007 - 16 Responses

           Do not be mistaken…segregation was not entirely uncomfortable. The indisputable knowledge of truth, that all men were created in the image of God (therefore equal), made segregation uncomfortable in the minds and hearts of the oppressed. But despite it being a colossal injustice, the societal manifestations of segregation were never truly uncomfortable. Blacks and whites were free from the responsibility of interracial interaction. The framework of society endorsed one’s unwillingness to understand and respect another man’s culture, consequently promoting prejudice and isolation. After all, what could be more commodious than enduring life in a racial and cultural vacuum? Integration was uncomfortable; segregation was not. Now in 2007, though there will always be individuals who can not shake the historic grip of mistrust, our country has evolved into a tolerant, cohabitating community. For the most part, we all work, learn, and play together. But…there still remains an integral feature of the human experience that the rewritten rules of society have failed to influence. There seems to be one community where comfort has been preserved and justified. Enter Reverend Richard Gaines.

            The highly anticipated email response from Reverend Gaines was nearly a week overdue when a divine intervention left me speechless. By the grace of God, two men with similar heartbeats sat mere feet apart watching pads crash and bodies fly, unaware that their paths were destined to cross. I recognized his voice before I saw his face. Justifying my ears with sight, I smiled at God and moved in his direction before anxiety had a chance to seize control. The light faces of my middle school ministry foreshadowed the issues I would discuss with this man; as did the dark faces that surrounded him.

            Days later, I furiously scribbled notes in preparation for our meeting, attempting to cover every single angle that Reverend Gaines might take in defense of America’s segregated congregations. I could have saved myself hours if I had accurately anticipated his response. Nevertheless, I covered all bases. To be honest, I was quite nervous approaching a successful

black minister of the Gospel with questions that could be interpreted as accusations. Before these thoughts could swell, I reminded myself that every church I had been a part of was guilty of this social crime and that my spirit’s justification was at stake. I must proceed.

            Before I presented the issues that have plagued my thoughts for years, Reverend Gaines and I connected through talks of seminary education, theology, and family. As we conversationally shifted to the reason for our conclave, my heart began to pump harder and faster. I explained to Reverend Gaines that I have formulated my concern into a simple question, and that with his permission; I would like to present it. He cordially nodded.

Is the segregation of America’s churches a division in the kingdom of…

            Before I could finish the question, he passionately repeated “YES” half a dozen times. Completely shocked, I stumbled and stammered looking for something to say in response. I had expected an explanation of culture or even demographics, but I was not prepared for such an enthusiastic confirmation. Reverend Gaines went on to articulate things that my heart has screamed for years. He had recently encountered a well-known church in New York that had achieved true diversity, and explained to me that this was his dream for Consolidated Baptist Church. According to Reverend Gaines, new church plants are relatively successful in executing congregational integration because of fresh, innovative thinking, but older church bodies are stuck in the philosophies of pre-Dr. King America. By proclaiming to a young, green college senior that “all color gives way to the blood of Christ”, Reverend Gaines shared that his heart beats for a similar mission. I was created to ask this question, and for the first time in my life, I found a man who truly empathized with the song of my heart. He told me that anything less than a pure reflection of the Kingdom of God (all nations, all colors) is a failure in the church. This is a bold statement to make, especially since the vast majority of Protestant congregations in the United States are monolithic with regard to racial composition. Even so, Reverend Gaines and I both agree that this subtle form of segregation can not be biblically or socially justified. Nevertheless, many attempt to dismiss this contemporary, religious separatism on the grounds of differing cultures, societal demographics, and individual preference.

Preferred Segregation, the beginning

November 30, 2007 - 11 Responses

It was my understanding that Mandela murdered apartheid and King killed segregation. If this is so, why do I see these doctrines still defining my world?

            For two hours, I sat in the back of a brightly lit sanctuary as six-hundred fellow worshipers sang, danced, shouted, and even screamed in an effort to connect with the sovereign Creator of melanin. I never caught a starring eye or a whispering child, even as first time visitors were asked to stand and give their name. No one asked any questions because none were needed. The colored light that their rods and cones interpreted for them told my story. I was white…in a black church. This was not a problem, just a fact. After all, this is 2007 – the aggravated beast of racism has been dead for years, right? Confirmation came in the form of at least a dozen hands to shake during the welcome. All are welcome in God’s house!

            Worship styles were worlds apart yet completely expected. After seeing native Kenyans celebrate their God, the roots of “black worship” can be confidently attributed to African ancestry. Conversely, founding models of “white worship” are found in the subdued Protestant churches of Europe. Honestly, it was quite refreshing to break from stiff, light people half-heartedly lip-synching. In evangelical circles and beyond, a common generalization of black and white churches is frequently made. African-Americans possess a rich, vibrant worship while lacking thorough Biblical teaching; European-Americans celebrate deep, theological instruction and usually settle for tame, unenthusiastic worship. This dichotomy of standards, although not universal, has plagued the existence of the Church for quite some time. 

            Neither acceptance in a black church, nor differing worship styles were the focus of my cognitive elaboration during the visit to Consolidated. Before, during, and after this experience, I have exclusively dwelt on the inadequacies of the Church in relation to its polarizing nature. As a follower of Jesus Christ and a firm believer in His Church, I struggle on many levels with what I interpret as a contemporary form of segregation in religious spheres. The church that I was absent from this particular Sunday morning possesses not one single African-American soul (short of my biracial brother). Consolidated would have failed this diversity test as well if it weren’t for my presence. My question is this: Is the segregation of the Church a division in the Kingdom of God? As a universal body of believers who exist in a nation that boasts of diversity and the outdated nature of segregation, we still seem to reflect the laws that once unjustly defined America. If I was on the outside looking in, I would be skeptical of any mission that the socially-constructed races were not able to unite for. Blacks worship with blacks, whites preach to whites, blacks serve blacks, and whites pray with whites. This unfortunate reality is not consistent with the teachings of Christ. It seems that the walls of segregation were never torn down in the Church.

            It is quite obvious that the vast majority of churches will never naturally evolve into diverse settings – so the question remains: Is a strategic integration necessary? There are churches around the country that purposefully hire ministers of various races to achieve diversity in the church. But is this “manipulation of the system” justified? In my assessment, the overwhelming component of this segregated system (besides cultural and racial history) is varying manifestations of worship. Similarly, Pentecostals don’t spend Sunday mornings with Baptists. So the question becomes substantially bigger than that of the races.

               In my humble opinion, I interpret the segregation of churches (both racially and denominationally) as divisions in the Kingdom of God. I am pessimistic of its repair. If the mutual love and adoration of Christ can not lead us to realize ultimate integration in all arenas of life, then nothing will. We will forever exist and function as black and white Churches who value diversity but aren’t willing to make strides and sacrifices to bring it to fruition.

Recently, I sat down with Reverend Richard Gaines of Consolidated Baptist Church (the biggest African-American church in Lexington) to discuss these delicate issues. In the next couple of post, the fruits of our conversation will be relayed to you. I pray that his insight and wisdom will help spark some further discussion.                   

Race: The Preface

November 16, 2007 - 3 Responses

For the next month or so, I will be compositionally wrestling with a deep-rooted passion of mine: RACE. My prayer is that these posts will serve as a catalyst for enlightened, socially enriching discussion. Though I ask for sensitivity, I also request honesty.

As a preface to this conversation, I would like to declare RACE to be two very important things:

  • A biological myth
  • A social reality  

 Due to the amazing holiday that we have entitled Thanksgiving, these posts will not begin until after Turkey Day. I hope you have a blessed season with your family and with your food.

Soli Deo Gloria